It Isn't Easy Filming the Aftermath of a School Shooting. But I'm Thankful I Did

A version of this post originally appeared on Odyssey.

"I heard there were gun shots by Mt. View. Stay inside and be safe, sisters!"

1:28 a.m.

What would happen next would be blurry, confusing, painful, terrifying and result in a community shaken to its core.

"Everyone, I was there at the shooting. Stay inside and do not open your doors."

2:08 a.m.

"Girls, do not open your doors. Keep them locked. They think the shooter might be in the building."

2:09 a.m.

"Everyone please pray for my friends that were hurt."

2:12 a.m.

I'm sitting on the staircase in my apartment. I have four friends visiting me from California. They are sleeping upstairs. I have friends locked in their bathroom in Mountain View. They are scared. I have friends in a wing on the lower level. Cops are swarming. I have friends who heard the shots from their window. They are too scared to get up and lock it.

"Police are walking [through] the halls."

2:28 a.m.

"Press conference at Drury 6 a.m."

3:46 a.m.

I'm now with my friends, the police have caught the shooter, the victims are in the hospital, the building is no longer on lockdown and we are all trying to wrap our heads around an early Friday morning gone terribly wrong.

I'm laying with a blanket over me when my phone begins to buzz. It's my editor-in-chief calling. He wants updates, he wants to know if everyone is OK, and he needs me to be at the press conference as soon as possible.

The press conference has started. My camera is in my hand and I'm overlooking a small portion of our NAU community. They are crying. Delta Chi brothers are wailing at the news. I'm pointing my camera at their faces.

How did I become a person capable of broadcasting pain and suffering?

I'm uploading the files when I'm sent to take pictures of the taped-off hall.

I'm talking to an officer who's asking me if I'm OK. I'm not. He tells me about losing his son not too long ago. I think about how he probably knows how the parents are feeling right now, having heard their son has passed away. I have to leave.

The day goes on. My roommates are taking care of my friends, showing them around our beautiful Flagstaff home. I'm receiving calls, texts, updates.

Are you OK? I'm sorry. Can you be at the court hearing? Is everything all right? What happened? Have you heard the latest news? Thanks for the updates. I'm looking at your photos. Do you know who the shooter was? Do you know who passed away?

I take a nap. I wake up. I head to the court, where we aren't allowed inside with cameras.

Those shots could have been portfolio builders, but I'm so thankful I can't be in there.

That was somebody's son.

By now the news is out, the names are public, and the media all over the country is making our small town a headline.

I'm making our small town a headline.

"The members of Delta Chi would like to sincerely thank everyone for all the support given by the Flagstaff community and our fellow Greek members. What happened was a tragedy that can never be forgotten At 7:00 tonight we will be holding a candlelight vigil at the North Quad for those who knew Colin and wish to show their support, and to show support for our brothers still in the hospital."

I'm there 15 minutes before 7:00. There's already hundreds of people. The members of Delta Chi stand in the front, heads bowed, arms around one another, tears in their eyes and pain on their faces.

What happened next might be the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

The lighter is passed, the candles are held high, our campus is glowing with love and support in a time of heartbreak. Beautiful words are spoken, people hold each other closely, our community is strong.

I'm thankful.

It isn't easy filming people who are enduring such physical and emotional hurt. I don't take this responsibility lightly. But this needs to be done. Everyone who has just heard of Flagstaff for the first time needs to know the beauty and strength that resides in the community here. Those hurting from a distance need to know that these boys are loved and supported.

The candlelight dims, the crowd slowly disperses, the night closes. Colin Brough is alive in our hearts.

The video as well as photo collections can be found here.